A Dark Night inside Langun Gobingob Cave | Samar

I awoke from a deep slumber, disoriented. I looked up at the darkness above me, hoping to see trails of scattered stars to help me figure out where I was. Instead, all I saw was pitch-black darkness. It gradually dawned on me that I dozed off the night before on a hammock inside a cave where we had gone the day before for an overnight spelunking expedition. A cave with a ceiling as high as 200 feet. I looked at my watch, and it shows 6:35 a.m. It was daytime outside, but it was an infinite evening inside this cave. As we prepared for breakfast before crawling our way out the other end, I stood up and packed my belongings. I mentally prepared myself for the rigorous routes that awaited us in the many chambers of Langun Gobingob.

Audrey Nagant Langun Gobingob Cave

The man who caved in

The day before we entered the mammoth mouth of Langun Gobingob cave in Calbiga, Samar, cave master Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures briefed us on the cave's history.

Koryn Iledan
Audrey from Belgium beside me and the Polish couple on both sides

The cave, which had been known to locals for many decades, rose to prominence in 1987 when an Italian group of speleologists led by Guido Rossi explored the cave's deepest and farthest chambers. Local caving enthusiasts quickly joined future explorations after a thorough mapping process.

Joni Bonifacio was one of many who were drawn in by the allure of the cave. Soon after, following his high school graduation, Joni began guiding his friends on weekend forays inside Langun Gobingob. After a hundred spelunking trips to the cave, Bonifacio decided to open Trexplore the Adventures, an adventure outfitter that guides visitors to Samar, Leyte, and Biliran.

Marky Ramone Go
Spectacular Wow-ing at the rock formations

In the years since, Bonifacio has become the go-to guide for cavers looking to explore Samar's numerous cave systems. He became so well-known that he is recommended in the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Langun Gobingob: ‘Biggest’ cave in the Philippines

Inside Calbiga Cave, we discovered a treasure trove of karst formations of various shapes and sizes spanning a 2,970 hectare underground labyrinth. The sight affirmed current claims that it is the Philippines' largest cave system and one of the largest in Asia. It's so big that our first camping spot was dubbed the "football field."

On our way to the muddy "football field"

However, when we entered the cave, the previous night's heavy rain had turned it into a swamp buried in three feet of mud, forcing us to make an emergency campsite on one of the cave's flat sections.

‘Leave no trace’ Policy

Inside the cave, we strictly adhered to Sir Joni's leave no trace policy. Not only did we make sure to bag all of our trash, but anything related to nature should be placed in a plastic bottle for urine and a garbage bag for all poops.

Audrey Nagant
Spot the bottle of urine and the plastic bag of poop.

I know that peeing on a bottle is a piece of cake in comparison to doing the number 2. I thought I was safe from pooping, but the next day I awoke to some roaring sounds emanating from my tummy.

Marky Ramone Go and Audrey Nagant
A cave version of tree-hugging

So I hunched down beside a few dead stalagmites and went over my business. The trick was to spread a plastic bag as wide as possible before covering it with sheets of tissue paper to absorb the poop's fluid. When you're finished, gently roll it over and tie it up tightly before placing it in a large garbage bag. It was easier than you might think, and I pity the guide who had to carry it out of the cave.

Tangled maze of spectacular chambers

On our way out the next day, we saw the full splendor of Langun Gobingob cave. We were greeted by incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations as we moved from one chamber to the next. We could see the calcium carbonate-covered rock formations shimmering like extravagant jewels even in the dark, with only our headlamps illuminating our path.

Marky Ramone Go and Audrey Nagant
Me and Audrey

Joni had a name for each chamber. Giant Chandeliers, for example, referred to the section where stalactites resembled the dripping crystals of massive chandeliers. When exhaustion set in, all I had to do was point my headlamp at the fascinating rock formations around me, and it would be replaced by sheer euphoria.

Audrey Nagant
Ladies first

The final leg of our journey should pique the interest of any adventurer. We waded in chest-deep natural pools, ambled through mud-filled cavernous passageways, and rappelled down a 40-meter-high wall. Nature designed every inch of the cave to accommodate every daring caver.

Marky Ramone Go
My turn to rope

While splashing my way into another natural pool, I finally saw the light emanating from the mouth of the cave.

Finally, after two days and we're out

"We're almost there," I told myself as Audrey, my new Belgian friend, walked behind me. As we posed for a photo commemorating our two-day assault on Langun Gobingob Cave, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I was overjoyed that I could finally relax all of my limbs and muscles, but I was also sad to leave this incredible location.

audrey nagant
Audrey, myself and our guides.

As we exchanged high fives, I turned around for one last look and thanked Mother Nature for carving this incredible cave over thousands of years.


This article first appeared on the Lifestyle page of The Daily Tribune on July 21, 2018.